The teams for the Afghanistan Test and the shorter formats in England tick all the right boxes



Every major selection committee meeting is preceded and followed by debates on the merits and demerits of the final 15 chosen by the current five wise men of Indian cricket. And while you can never make a billion fans happy, the selectors have come reasonably close with the team for the tour of England.

They have rewarded recent performance, kept the 2019 World Cup in mind and considered conditions to make a few bold calls.

Three things stand out for me in these selections.

First, Ajinkya Rahane is now being thought of only as a Test player. He’ll captain the side in the Test against Afghanistan and deputise in the five-match series against England. But he has been left out of the shorter formats.

With KL Rahul performing in white-ball cricket – his IPL form has been stellar, and his inclusion in the Test against Afghanistan, this is one clear message. He may well be India’s choice for No 4 at the 2019 World Cup.

Shreyas Iyer is the backup and he’s also done well enough to hold his spot in the one-day team. Manish Pandey, who hasn’t made the most of opportunities, is the other player to miss out.


Second, the debate on who’ll be the ‘finisher’ is settled. MS Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik along with Hardik Pandya are the preferred choices. Rishabh Pant’s selection in the India A team is indication that Dhoni and Karthik are keepers one and two.

Few can argue with Karthik’s selection. He has had the best few months of his career and has evolved both as batsman and a finisher. He has exceeded expectations as captain of Kolkata and that they are still in the playoff race is because of his performance.

The reinvention of MSD must be the most hea r t ening development for the selectors. It means there is firepower in the lower middle order, something India has not had in the recent past.

Third, and perhaps the most important, is the choice of spinners. With Washington Sundar picked ahead of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja – Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal keep their places – it is fair to say selectors are looking beyond the senior duo for white-ball cricket.

Emphasis on wrist spin too is clearly evident and as Muthiah Muralitharan said in an interview to ET recently it is “a wise call because wrist spinners will pick you wickets irrespective of the conditions on offer.”

Sundar’s choice is perhaps the most debateable. Has he done enough to make the ODI team? His ability to bowl in powerplays and with the bat has clearly influenced selectors and I would tend to say it is a forwardlooking decision.

Coming to the pace quartet — critical in overseas conditions — India now have two of the best exponents of death bowling in Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah. That Hyderabad are at the top of the IPL table is because of Bhuvi’s evolution as a specialist and they have able back up in Siddarth Kaul (both formats) and Umesh Yadav (in ODIs).

While Umesh may feel hard done having bowled exceptionally well in the IPL, Kaul has been rightfully rewarded for some excellent death bowling. He has bowled with pace and accuracy. Shardul Thakur, who did well in South Africa, may feel disappointed but Kaul looks a better prospect on current form.

The only issue I have with the 50-over side is a possible sixth bowler in case the five regular bowlers go for runs. Can Suresh Raina, now a regular in the T20 side, do enough to earn a call back? Is a fit Kedar Jadhav an option or will India go in with five specialist bowlers in the World Cup? But then there’s no real end to this debate.

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